Caribbean and Diaspora News Round-up

The deal on remittances
Those detentions in full
Dodging the APD
The IMF in St Lucia and Jamaica
Usain wins top European awards
CI logo Sending more home
It’s that time of year when most Caribbean people living away think about sending “a little something back home” for their loved ones.
And studies published this year indicate that even recession and unemployment have not brought an end to that practice.
However, hardship did reduce the size of the pot, which is only now increasing again after the2009 global financial crisis.
The World Bank has estimated that the amount of money sent home by Caribbean and Latin American will continue to grow over the next three years.
The gains are, at present, coming more from the US.
The report indicates that remittances to Latin America and Caribbean nations have been “supported by a recovering economy and moderately improving labour market in the US, but were moderated by a weak European economy”.
So how much did we send home last year?
Haiti is a prime example of a country boosted by its diaspora.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reported earlier this year that in 2011, US$2bn – more than a quarter of the country’s income – came from remittances from Haitians working abroad.
Checks by Caribbean Intelligence© indicate that the IDB found this was surpassed in 2011 by the US$3.1bn in remittances to Haiti’s neighbour, the Dominican Republic.
For their part, Jamaicans abroad sent home US$2bn in 2011.
These figures were followed by remittances to Guyana (US$401m), Trinidad and Tobago ($131m), Suriname ($114m) and Belize ($107m). 
The World Bank reckons that total remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean will grow by 2.9% this year to a total figure of US$64bn.
Not only do people in the States send the most money back home to relatives, but the US is also still the favoured destination of migrants from the so-called developing world.
And since the financial crisis, those from migrant communities in the US are most likely to find fresh jobs as the economy recovers.
The World Bank report indicates that since 2009, migrant employment in the US picked up “considerably” faster than employment of native workers.
America’s recovery has favoured higher-skilled occupations in technical and healthcare services, while jobs in, say, the construction industry, have been slower to pick up.
In the UK, weak output and employment have started to put the squeeze on remittances back home.
Back in 2009, the report said, migrants in the UK tended to cut back on other things, in order to keep sending the same money home. Those remittances have now started to decline, but not as much as remittances from the UK to other parts of Europe.
Experts are now looking to the “next big thing” in the world of remittances.
“Although channelling international remittances through mobile phones has the promise of expanding access and lowering costs, this service has yet to take off in a substantial way,” the World Bank report said.
Meanwhile, governments and other organisations are beginning to look to the spending power of the Caribbean diaspora.
In October, the chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, described the Caribbean diaspora as a “silent giant” which should be tapped.
The growing awareness has also been helped by the screening in the Caribbean and beyond of the documentary Forward Home, based on the research work of Dr Keith Nurse, the director of the Shridath Ramphal Centre for Migration.
Dr Nurse told an audience in London in November that Caribbean diaspora economies were “transcending the economies of island nations”.
CI logo Those detentions in full…
A series of high-profile detentions and releases has put the Caribbean in the news, but perhaps not for the best of reasons.
On 6 December, anti-virus software founder John McAfee was held in Guatemala while being sought for questioning in Belize. He had managed to blog and be interviewed during his time in the country,  before collapsing in front of the world’s media and being taken away by ambulance.
He has since been told he has no right to remain in Guatemala and subsequently been flown back to his native US.
He later said in Miami that he had feigned a heart attack in Guatemala to buy time for his lawyers.
Belize police want to question him in connection with the murder of his neighbour in Belize.
Mr McAfee denies being involved and says he fears for his life if he returns to Belize, despite an appeal from that country’s prime minister.
While that media circus was in full swing, on the evening of 7 December came word that missing former Turks and Caicos Premier Michael Misick had been held at a Rio de Janeiro airport. He had been on the way to see his lawyer in Sao Paulo in a renewed effort to remain in Brazil.
Wanted after leaving his country following allegations of government systemic corruption, Mr Misick had been living in the Rio suburbs of Ipanema and Leblon.
Shortly afterwards, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush was brought in for questioning over the misuse of a government credit card and other charges.
Remarkably, island police broke the news on their own Twitter site soon after Mr Bush came in for questioning.
Mr Bush has been released, but faces opposition pressure to step down while investigations continue.
CI logo Dodging the APD
While the British Chancellor seems determined to keep raising the controversial Airport Passenger Departure (APD) Tax, dodging payment of the tax appears to be becoming the new middle-class winter hobby of choice.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph has recommended moves including:
  • breaking up flights to benefit from cheaper starts for the long-haul part of a journey,
  • choosing Hawaii over the Caribbean
  • and leaving the UK by train, not plane, on the first leg of a trip.
But the paper also advised its readers to sign the Fair Tax on Flying petition.
Britain’s Travel Weekly reports on a survey by Blue Chip Holidays' research of more than 800 customers conducted since the Chancellor’s mini budget.
Some 18% of those questioned said that the APD rises had put them off foreign travel over the last year.
A further 38% said that they had chosen UK self-catering holidays over overseas trips in order to save money.
A separate study by the Airport Operators Association, which surveyed 26 UK airports, heard predictions that passenger numbers are expected to fall because of the APD hike.
In all, 73% of UK airports said they were “very worried” by the government's tax plans.
Other research indicates that British holiday venues are gearing up to be the chief beneficiaries as people choose a “staycation” over the ever-increasing costs of long-haul travel from Britain.
CI logo IMF to St Lucia: well done on the VAT
St Lucia has received a nod of approval from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but has been advised to make sure that all sectors play fairly in the country’s new value added tax (VAT) system.
In a 12 December statement issued after an IMF visit to St Lucia, the Fund said the country’s modernisation of its tax system should help broaden its tax base and enhance revenue collection.
However, the Fund cautioned that “the expected gain from the VAT will be realised only if all sectors contribute and the base is shielded from the exemptions that have eroded the yield of other taxes”.
As it has in other Caribbean states, the IMF advised cuts in the public wage bill, tight controls on wage cost increases and better ways to target help to the country’s most vulnerable people.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Finance Minister Peter Phillips says he is still hoping that a new IMF agreement will be signed before year-end.
Denying some reports that Jamaica’s tax reform proposals had been one of the hurdles, Mr Phillips told the Jamaica Gleaner that nothing has been thrown out of the negotiations with the Fund.
"What is the issue is that we have to do additional work, as we have always said on waivers and other issues, there is no truth in that whatsoever,” the Jamaican Finance Minister told the paper.
"We are continuing, the governor of the Bank of Jamaica and the financial secretary are in Washington now, as we speak, working on things. December is not yet finished.”
Usain sweeps European honours
Usain Bolt was awarded the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday 16 December.
Accepting his award via video link, the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m sprint king said it had been a "great Olympics".
"I'll continue working hard, keep staying focused," he said.
Retired American sprinter Michael Johnson, himself the holder of four olympic gold medals, voiced the tribute to Bolt in which he described him as "the greatest sprinter of all time."
In the previous week, Usain Bolt had also been awarded the men's 'Champion of World Champions' awards by the French Sports paper L'Equipe.
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